Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Growing--Two Versions of a Landscape--New York Hills Painting

This pair of paintings represents a rare undertaking for me--creating a second version of a landscape I had already painted once. You have seen the painting on the right before, on the November 5 blog post, along with the following description: " . . . Look to the Hills, II, recalls a deeply renewing visit to Warwick Conference Center near Warwick, NY a few Octobers ago. Our long-time friends, Ken and Arlene Tenckinck, manage the center and direct all its programs. As I type this, I find myself smiling and breathing deeply with pleasure--they are remarkable people, Our too-infrequent times together are always rich, meaningful, and full of laughter."
The original Look to the Hills painting, on the left above, differs in the painting palette, in the appearance of the large tree, and in the degree of detail developed in various areas of the composition. It remains a personal favorite as a reminder of that wonderful visit with treasured friends and for the tranquil feeling it gives me. Although I am open to selling most of the paintings I currently have on hand, I plan to keep the first version of this scene.
Why did I decide to create another painting from the same reference photos? I guess part of the reason is the attachment I feel to this scene. I also like an occasional break from Coastal North Florida scenes and felt like a return to the mountain vista of the Warwick, New York area. Finally, I was curious to try a second version with a different palette, a more limited group of basic paint colors from which I mixed all the colors you see in version II.
There may be some truth to the saying that "You can't go home again", as the second version proved to be much more difficult than the first. It simply refused to come out well and is still a distant second to the first in my opinion. However, hearing the response of other people to the two pieces has been interesting and instructive. At my Open Studio Reception in November, several guests really liked Hills II , and at least one of them is still considering purchasing it. Their opinions serve as a good reminder that taste and preference in art are very individual and that I should not assume that viewers will always rank paintings the same way I do. If any of you want to vote for one or the other, that would be fun, and I would love to hear the reasons for your preference.
Question of the day: What experiences can you recall that illustrate the wide variation among people in their taste in art?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Savoring--Comfort Food--Rich Bean Soup Recipe

We love homemade soup anytime of the year, but it smells especially comforting and inviting in cold weather. This recipe is adapted from one on a package of mixed, dried beans we used to buy in Southern California--I don't remember the brand name. The 20 ounce bag of dried beans claimed to have 15 kinds of beans in it.
The brand I buy currently has 12 kinds of beans and makes just as delicious a soup. The last time I shopped for them, however, our store was out. Since I couldn't wait to make soup from the ham bone and meat left over from cooking brunch for 25 people the morning after our son's wedding, I settled for two 16 ounce bags of dried beans--pinto and black beans. Adjusting the recipe to more or less account for the extra beans, I made the soup you see in the photo. It definitely warmed that chilly winter evening here in North Florida--with plenty left over for another night later in the week and some to freeze for another time.
There are alternatives to soaking the beans overnight--see instructions for microwave "soaking" on the package. Or you could use a slow cooker. I like to plan ahead and rinse the beans and cover them with soaking water the night before. If the dried beans come with a so-called flavoring packet, I suggest throwing it away--who needs extra salt, MSG, and all sorts of other chemicals? The recipe makes at least 12 servings, depending on your bowl size. Hope this warms you soon.
Rich Mixed Bean Soup
20 oz. mixed dried beans (not canned)
meaty ham bone or kielbasa sausage
4 - 5 stalks celery, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
1 lb. carrots, in bite-sized chunks
1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can tomatoes in puree
1 - 2 tsp. chili powder
juice of one lime (or equivalent from bottled lemon or lime juice)
Rinse beans and soak overnight in about 4 quarts cold water in a large soup pot (an 8 quart pot is good). Drain beans and add about 4 quarts fresh water plus the ham bone or sausage. Simmer 2 1/2 - 3 hours, stirring up from the bottom occasionally.
Add rest of ingredients and simmer about 45 minutes, stirring off and on so it doesn't stick to the pot. (You can add more water for a thinner soup if desired). Add a dash of pepper to taste (it will not need salt because of the ham bone).
Lift out ham bone or sausage, chop meat and return to pot. Enjoy!
Question of the day: What is your favorite meal in cold weather?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Learning--Perspective Study--Jacksonville Pier Painting

Some paintings grow from an effort to learn or practice a particular skill. A few years ago, I worked on this piece primarily to practice handling perspective, trying to show the Jacksonville Pier extending into the distance. It was also an early attempt to capture ocean waves--not a simple task, either. Although it took considerable time and work, this is, in essence, a study--or a study plus some development. The painting itself is approximately 11" X 17", an acrylic on heavy acid-free art paper. Although it began as a study, it seemed worth having professionally mounted and matted when it was finished and now has an overall size of 18" X 24", which will fit a standard frame.
Given my math background and tendency to over-analyze some things, I tried to reason out the representation of depth in proper perspective on a flat surface. However, working carefully with several photos of the pier and struggling until the view looked right to me yielded a better result than all that meticulous figuring had. Interestingly, an exact scaling up of the pier and its pilings from photos to painting did not quite "look right", and I had to tinker with the sizing and spacing to achieve a realistic representation (at least, one that looked realistic to me). I am tempted to philosophize on appearances vs. reality or some silly thing, but will spare you that.
Question of the day: Is it just me, or is struggling to master something difficult more fun and rewarding than doing the things that come easily?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Learning and Growing--I Now Have a Facebook Page

Today, I only have time for a quick post to say that I now have a Facebook page. I have been slow to try this technology, but have wanted to begin to connect with friends and family via social networking. Today I took the plunge and have enjoyed the experience so far--mostly--as this old dog slowly learns a new trick.
I hope that my blogging friends will check in. Try the Facebook "badge" on this blog, and please let me know if it is working or not.
The best "head shot" I could find for my profile is posted here for your amusement. I cropped it out of a photo a couple of years old from a fun getaway to Myrtle Beach, SC with my sister. Browsing my IPhoto library showed me what happens when I am usually the person taking the photos--nothin' much of myself there.
I will soon post some photos from our son's wedding on Facebook, so there will be a few more sightings of this dancing fool.
Question of the day: In your opinion, what are the benefits and pitfalls of using Facebook?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Savoring and Giving Thanks--Our Son's Wedding

After a break from posting, I'll give you a quick glimpse of the reason we have been very busy and seldom online for the last several weeks. Our younger son, Peter, married an absolutely wonderful woman, Ashley, on Saturday, January 2nd. We have enjoyed the usual showers, bridesmaid luncheon, rehearsal, and rehearsal dinner (on two different nights because of the holidays)--all went smoothly and were wonderful celebrations. The wedding was stunning, and the reception a great party. In addition, we were thrilled to have some long-time friends, many of Pete's aunts & uncles from both sides of the family and several of his cousins and their families travel to Jacksonville from many different regions of the country for the occasion. We hosted as many meals and other gatherings in our home as we could to take full advantage of the time we were together over several days. We said the last good-byes this morning as several family members left on planes and trains.
It will take several days to sort through all the photos from the wedding and other celebrations and even longer to get the professional photos, but I will post one candid of the bride and groom for you to see. Although it's not the purpose of this blog to share family news and photos, I wanted to show you why I've been AWOL for awhile and to share our joy. And given how proud of our family and grateful for them we are, a few more posts about this amazing time in our lives may be coming.